Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.



Racing Stewards' Authority

This week Doc from ThoroFan discusses the the authority of appointed stewards. He uses as an example The Great White Way Stakes race run at Aqueduct on December 16, 2923. As a result of the stewards’ decision racing commentary exploded within social media criticizing the stewards’ decision. The owner of the involved horse tried to lodge an appeal but was denied because of regulatory restriction in New York.

Unpacking this mess shows that there are at least three points in this adjudication process that come into play. (1) The action in the race is the responsibility of the riders. (2) The inquiry of the possible foul by the stewards. (3) The decision by the stewards to disqualify a horse and penalize the jockey. No one can appeal a decision of the stewards in New York (other states may have a different regulation). There may be avenues of corrections for as many comments made by fans. However, there is one not mentioned that might have avoided the entire tangle.

ThoroFan has proposed that stewards should immediately after inquiry decision is made come live on the tote board and the internet to explain their decision in a way that fans can understand. Fans may not accept the decision, but they cannot say they don’t understand the reason for the decision and regulations on which it is based. Those still willing to complain vociferously will be seen as crying because they lost a bet or an owners’ percentage of the purse. None of us can ever say we have not had that emotional response after “our horse” was disqualified or lost because of another horse’s action not cited by the stewards. But the irrational blubs on social media would be seen for exactly what they are, crying.

Fans have a role in changing the regulatory process that effects the outcome of our sport. As Doc says, the stewards who make the decisions at tracks across the country are appointed by various racing entities. As fans we have the right and the responsibility to share our opinions with these bodies. In the case of New York, it is the New York Gaming Commission. Over a decade ago the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo created the New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council to advise the Gaming Commission on all things affecting horse racing. ThoroFan had an appointment to that Council. During the first few years it was highly active in submitting reports to the Gaming Commission. Then in 2016 it became inactive without any explanation. Other states have inquired about this process which ThoroFan described as a panelist at the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Symposium. The only way other states will learn about the Council or consider creating one in their state is if fans attend their meetings and lobby for it. Other segments (stakeholders) in racing do so for their interests. Why not fans?

Doc is correct that changing regulation in states is labor intensive and requires an understanding of state political processes. Not easy to learn or use. But it can be done if our elected officials understand the critical mass of racing fans and their voting potential. Most elected states officials’ campaign and money-raising teams work on their reelection efforts. Here is where fans have a voice. A poll done for the NY State Racing Advisory Council by Siena College of racing fans in New York State concluded that there may be as many a 4 million racing fans in New York. All were above voting age. The 2022 Gubernatorial election was won by a margin of 300,000 votes. Governor Kathy Hochul captured 3.1 million votes to win over Lee Zeledon who accrued 2.8 million votes. Racing fans must never underestimate our power at the ballot box and regularly remind our elected officials of it.

A study by the Jockey Club a few years ago “guesstimated” that there may be over 20,000,000 racing fans in the country. That includes you and me. As Doc routinely espouses fans need to attend their state’s racing commission’ meetings to share improvement opinions with them. Knowing and announcing the number of racing fans in your state offers enormous leverage in your efforts to improve our sport and be heard at these meeting.

Although it sounds like a lot of work and it can be, it can begin by organizing a small group of fans in your state. A short cut to this effort can be forming a ThoroFan group in your state or joining the national ThoroFan. As our numbers grow so will your voice.

Let’s get started. Join ThoroFan today. The initial step is free. We will reach out to you asking for a small donation to continue your membership.